AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame | Where Heroes Live On
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Dennis Mahan


It took Dennis Mahan just one motorcycle race in 1958 to decide his role was in the garage, not on the track.

“There was a new BSA flat track bike, so I bought one,” he says. “At 18, I was the owner of a BSA Gold Star. And I went racing at Gardena. It took one race for me to realize I was not competitive and this was not going to be profitable. So, I hired another guy to ride my bike.”

In 1959, Mahan and his rider were in Kansas.

“My rider broke his collarbone,” he says. “There was this redheaded kid from Oklahoma who comes up and wants to ride my bike the next day in Stockton [Kan.]. That was my first meeting with [future Hall of Famer] Gary Nixon.

“He was a good rider, but his bikes were junk,” Mahan says. “He didn’t make the main that day on his bike. But the next day, on my BSA, he not only made the main, but he won it by a straight.”

Nixon rode for Mahan in 1959 as a junior and part of 1960 as a first-year expert.

In mid-1961, Mahan met future Hall of Famer Neil Keen.

“Neil Keen wanted to ride my bike while his was broken,” Mahan explains. “That turned into a six-year collaboration. In 1961, we won 19 mains out of 29 races.”

Keen won the Ascot national in 1961.

Mahan-tuned BSAs, Yamahas, Can-Ams and Kawasakis were instrumental in some of the greatest careers in American motorcycling, winning titles and setting records in dirt track, road race, motocross and land-speed over several decades.
He built and tuned bikes for Keith Mashburn, the country’s top Novice Flat Tracker and TT rider in 1968 and the 1969 Daytona short track winner.

In 1969, Mahan built engines for—and managed—Yamaha USA’s first factory teams in dirt track, road race, motocross and snowmobile competition. Mahan built the 250cc factory road racer that sported Nixon’s AMA No. 1 plate.

Perhaps his crowning achievement in motocross came when his Can-Am bikes swept the top three spots at the 1974 AMA 250cc National Motocross Championship. Hall of Famers Gary Jones, Marty Tripes and Jimmy Ellis were at the controls.
In 1977, Mahan moved to Kawasaki Motors USA where he mentored future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend Wayne Rainey.

Mahan also built factory Kawasaki dirt-trackers for future Hall of Famer Eddie Lawson, and helped develop the production KZ1000 Eddie Lawson Replica street bike in 1983.

Mahan’s accomplishments include building engines for motorcycles competing at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and he was part of 11 land speed records.